Startups Empowering Women

Women across America aspire to have successful careers and raise families, however finding the perfect balance between those two paths can prove to be a difficult challenge, requiring support and mentorship, in addition to flexibility and understanding from their employers.

There are many examples of strong female leaders in the corporate world, but these women are a part of a small, high-profile minority.  When researching you may find that female C-level executives are quite rare.  Only 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions are held by women.


That is where startups come in.  With the recent surge of startups we’re seeing the beginnings of a cultural shift toward a working environment that encourages and develops female talent.  But what are the challenges that women in the corporate world still face today?  And more importantly, how may they overcome them?  And what are some ways women can realize their true potential in the world of startups?

For many women, the American Dream seems to be accompanied by a few caveats.  In the corporate sector, despite steady movement toward gender equality and improved pay conditions, women still earn only 81% of their male counterparts’ salaries.    There is no good reason for this gap in pay, especially when you consider that now in the United States, women are actually more likely than men to be college graduates.

The challenges grow even further for those women who want to start a family.  Women can expect 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, which is far behind other countries like the United Kingdom, where women receive leave with pay for up to 39 weeks.  This makes for some very tough decisions and complicated financial planning.

Even further, rigid working hours, demanding schedules and a seemingly increasing discriminatory attitude toward pregnant women in the workplace are all factors making it harder for women to succeed, and this problem reaches beyond our own country.  A survey of 2,000 mothers and 500 managers in the UK found that 60 of female respondents felt they had been “sidelined” at work after announcing their pregnancies, and 40 percent of managers admitted to have think carefully about hiring a woman of child-bearing age.

There is hope however, for recent graduates and those of us who have spent years working on their careers, and that hope lies within startups.

Today’s startups are taking giant steps toward equality and empowerment of female employees by fostering cultures that tear down old paradigms and create and open and meritocratic space for everyone to develop his or her skills, allowing women entrepreneurs, especially those with children, to more easily move forward and show the world what they’re all about.


Startup culture is one that is generally freer and more accepting of irregular hours and work locations, benefiting both women and men with families.  Startup working enables people to schedule work around family life, instead of the other way around.  This type of supportive working environment is hard to come by in long-established corporations.

Startups also have a burgeoning culture of openness, underlined earlier this year by a trend of startups’ workers tweeting their salaries under the hashtag #TalkPay.  Promoting transparency in this way and to this degree is unheard of in the corporate world.  Trends and attitudes such as this will inevitably lead to greater fairness and accountability across the board.

The biggest buzzword in startup culture is innovation.  Can you make the move from corporate to work in a startup environment?  That depends on your level of motivation and determination, but the most important quality you can possess is adaptability and the willingness to put forth your ideas – no matter how small or new those ideas may be.

How do you set out on your own?  If you want to take the entrepreneurial route, you will need a different mindset.  Throw yourself in the deep end and live it by turning your business idea into a passion.  Don’t be afraid to find a mentor, male or female, and make use of the resources available to you.  Having someone to guide you through tricky business decisions, investments, and contracts is invaluable in the early stages of a startup business.

And most importantly, discover and learn.  And don’t be afraid to unlearn.  Attending conferences and networking to meet other similarly minded women can only be of benefit to you.

To sum it all up – startups provide women with a transparent and supportive environment.  Entrepreneurship overall is a fantastic opportunity, and there are a growing number of resources for women to get started.  The future is wide open and it’s time to take the initiative.

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